There has been some movement in the future shape of the F1 calendar with confirmation from Bernie Ecclestone that from next year onwards Valencia and Barcelona will share a slot. And at the same time he said that a deal has been concluded for France to return to the schedule, in a deal alternating with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa.
“The deal is done,” said Ecclestone. “We agreed the financial terms last Tuesday with the minster of sport, David Douillet. As soon as France is ready, we will sign.”
The sign off for the French Grand Prix is clearly waiting for the French presidential election to be concluded, as is usually the way. It looks quite possible that there could be a new administration in France. Although everyone is working on the assumption that the French race will take place at Paul Ricard in the South of France, paddock sources suggested to me at the weekend not to discount a possible switch and a return to Magny Cours, which hosted the race from 1991 to 2008.
Apparently Paul Ricard, owned by Ecclestone, is not a straightforward proposition as the access roads are not good for a large crowd and there are no grandstands, so temporary ones would have to be erected. There are likely to be political considerations as well, depending on the outcome of the election.
With a French president of the FIA, who is due to face a re-election himself in 18 months time, the French have been making serious efforts to regain their place on the calendar, the French GP not having taken place since 2008. Magny Cours dropped off because of local government finance reasons primarily. The circuit is up to current F1 standards and always provided great racing.
Its return would give Michael Schumacher something to smile about; he won eight times at Magny Cours.
Europe is clinging to its F1 venues, with the financial crisis in the Eurozone set to continue and intensify in the next few years, while there are new venues further afield willing to pay higher sanctioning fees.
Mexico is likely to put a deal together soon, with telecoms billionaire Carlos Slim currently pushing Sergio Perez. If Perez gets into a Ferrari in the near future you can be sure that a Mexican Grand Prix won’t be too far behind. Argentina is pushing hard for a return, while Russia is already scheduled for 2014, New Jersey will have a slot in 2013, probably in June, to tie in with Montreal.
This will leave just seven events; Britain, Monaco, Italy, Spain, Germany, France/Belgium and Hungary as the only European races on a 20 race calendar.